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The Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes looks at a FMCG brand that always keeps things interesting.

A FMCG brand that always seems to keep things interesting in a very tough and competitive market is Walkers Crisps – their advertising campaign with Gary Lineker is arguably one of the most noteworthy and enduring FMCG campaigns of all time.

They also keep consumers interested in their product by adding new flavours and variants. This week they have launched a range of Limited Edition ‘Sarnie Flavours’. The flavours featured are sourced from Heinz and include Heinz Tomato Ketchup, HP Sauce, Lea & Perrins Worcester Sauce and Heinz Salad Cream. This deal is a great showcase for the added flavours, a good way of Heinz reaching beyond their core consumers and is, I am sure, a very worthwhile ‘bulk’ ingredients sale.

It may not be modelled as a classic licensing deal, but it is a good example of how FMCG companies are using and can use other brands to add value to their product and create a significant point of difference. Walkers’ are experts in making the most of opportunities and have communicated this latest campaign well at consumer and trade level.

It is a good model for other manufacturers I think, and is a good case study to point to when seeking to encourage other manufacturers to consider using licensing to enhance their products.


I have talked before about how it is important for licensees to go the extra yard to support their licensed products. Too often companies will think the licence is enough to sell the product – I think five or ten years ago this might have been the case, but in a retail world that is evermore busy and a licensing sector that is increasingly competitive, I think it is very important that licensees think about point of sale and point of purchase activity.

With this in mind it was good to see what DC Thomson are doing at WH Smith retail to support their comics and magazines. They have created branded FSDUs that include licensed titles Danger Mouse and Noddy. They are really giving these titles a chance to be seen and tried in a busy retail fixture.

The comic section in retailers is busy and can be cluttered. Dedicated FSDUs lift the product off the shelf and demand consumer attention. With a good pricing strategy, strong cover gifts and a well presented front cover, I am guessing the publisher is hoping that consumers will ‘buy and try’ the comics – potentially coming back for more. The licensors for Noddy and Danger Mouse must be pleased to see the effort that DC Thomson are putting into selling the titles and that they are not just sitting back and waiting to see what happens.


I was also impressed by Foyles’ window and shop displays for the film release of Swallows and Amazons. In the context of Foyles this was mostly focused on selling Swallows and Amazons books – with the original novel re-jacketed with a movie still and branding. But it is good to see how retailers and, in this case, publishers are coordinating opportunities like movie releases.

They create a great opportunity to engage with consumers and to ride on the back of the PR that movie releases generate. In cases like this the retailer has to have a good radar for what is in the pipeline event wise – also I think it is important that retailers consider different opportunities and try to offer consumers a different story to their competitors.

Swallows and Amazons has got a couple of interesting licensed products associated with it, including a ceramics range being sold exclusively via Nauticalia – a specialist retailer – this is a good example of a licensor and retailer finding a brand match and licensing reaching into a new retail channel.


It was also interesting to see value card retailer Card Factory featuring ‘kids character cards’ in their window posters – promoting character greeting cards including Fireman Sam, Shopkins and Paw Patrol for 99p. This is a great indication that retailers believe in the selling power of licensed characters and I guess that they feel their consumers are looking for ‘value’ but still want to buy into their favourite characters.

The trade off for licensors here is making sure that the value proposition delivers good volume and doesn’t interrupt activity in other retail channels. Hopefully this is also a good sign that retailers such as Card Factory recognise that licensing and characters can make a difference in their business.


Finally, I thought the street art tribute that I spotted to the late Kenny Baker on London’s South Bank was a great example of the reach of Star Wars and the love that consumers have for the Star Wars characters. I think it was a lovely tribute to Kenny.

Ian Downes runs Start Licensing, an independent brand licensing agency. His Twitter handle is @startlicensing – he would welcome your suggestions for what to look out for.

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